Welcome to the Abington Joint Town Watch Council Dog Walk & Watch Program family. As a way to stay connected to our neighbors that have been through our training, we will be preparing a quarterly newsletter to offer useful tips and information in an effort to keep us focused on neighborhood safety, crime prevention and the care of four legged friends and crime fighting partners.
We are also trying to arrange events at local pet shops and veterinary clinics in the area, and hope to provide you with additional information about this in future newsletters.
Now that the winter season is approaching, we thought we would present winter care tips for your dog as suggested by “dogsnaturally” magazine.
Does your dog love winter or would he/she rather cuddle up on a couch or under a cozy blanket? Either way, you should be prepared to protect him/her when venturing out into the elements.
Many dog owners live with the misconception that because their pets have a coat of fur, they can tolerate the cold better than humans. This isn’t necessarily the case. Like us, these fur-coated creatures are used to the warmth of indoor shelter and cold weather can be as hard on them as it is on us humans. Whatever your viewpoint on winter, one thing remains certain; it’s a time when our pets need a little extra care.
Frostbite: Frostbite begins when your dog’s body gets cold. The body automatically pulls blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The dog’s ears, paws or tail can get so cold that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. The tricky thing to remember about frostbite is that it’s not immediately obvious. Watch for sign of pale or grey skin; the skin may also turn hard and cold. As frostbite areas warm, they can be extremely painful. Severely frostbitten skin will eventually turn black and slough off.
Hyperthermia: A second serious winter weather concern is hypothermia. This occurs when a dog spends too much time in the old, gets wet in cold temperatures or when dogs with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, the dog will shiver and ears and paws may grow cold. As hyperthermia progresses, he/she may show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition worsens, the dog’s muscles will stiffen, heart and breathing rates slow down, and they will not respond to stimuli. Severe hypothermia is life threatening.
Note: Preventing your dog from frostbite and hypothermia is essential, so learn how to recognize the signs that your dog needs to come indoors to warm up. If it’s too cold for you to stand at the door without your coat, it’s probably too cold for your dog too, so pay attention to your dog’s behavior while outdoors. If you notice your dog whining, shivering or appearing anxious, or they stop playing and seems to be looking for places to burrow, then it’s time to bring them in.
Additional Winter Care Tips:
Let’s talk temperature..
Some dog breeds are blessed with thick fur that keeps them warm naturally, even in very cold temperatures, but dogs with thin coats may need to wear a sweater or coat when out for winter walks. A good coat should reach from neck to base of the tail and also protect the belly. Remember that coats will not prevent frostbite on the ears, feet or tail; so even with a cozy coat, don’t keep your short haired dog out too long in freezing temperatures.
Go outside when the sun shines..
If your dog feels the cold, try to walk him/her in the late morning or early afternoon hours when temperatures are a bit warmer, and avoid early or late evening walks. Spend time playing outdoors while it’s sunny; sunshine brings benefits of providing both you and your dog with vitamin D.
Indoor pets are happiest..
Our pets need to be indoors with us. The happiest dogs are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but live inside the rest of the time. Don’t leave pets outside alone when the temperature drops. A good rule of thumb is to go out with them and when you are ready to come in, they will be too.
In addition to limiting your dog’s time outdoors on cold days, don’t let your pooch sleep on a cold floor in winter. Choosing the right bedding is vital to ensure your dog stays warm. Warm blankets can create a snug environment, raised beds can keep your dog off cold floors and heated pet beds can help keep the stiffness out of aging joints. Place your dog’s bed in a warm spot away from drafts, cold tile or uncarpeted floors, preferably in their favorite spot where he/she sleeps every day so that the area doesn’t feel unfamiliar.
Protect your dog from heaters..
Dogs will often seek heat during cold winter weather by snuggling too close to heating sources. Avoid space heaters and install baseboard radiator covers to avoid your pet getting burned. Fireplaces also pose a major threat so please make sure you have a pet proof system to keep your heat-seeking pet out of harm’s way.
Dry and cold weather can do a number on your pet’s skin. Help prevent dry, flaky skin by adding a skin and coat supplement to their food. Coconut and fish oil are easy foods that can help keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy. If you find your pet’s paws, ears, tail, are dry or cracking, you can also apply oil topically as needed.
Although dogs may need an extra layer in winter, make sure it comes from a coat and not a layer of fat. Unless your dog lives outdoors during the winter, they usually won’t need any additional calories during the winter chill. Cold temperatures may even bring on lazy behavior and the need for fewer calories. Be attentive to your dog’s activity level and adjust his calories accordingly. A high quality, whole foods, preferably a raw meat based diet will help ensure a healthy coat and good energy for the cold winter months.
Keep your dog hydrated..
Dogs can dehydrate just as quickly in winter as summer. Although many dogs eat snow, it’s not an adequate substitute for fresh water. If your dog spends time outdoors in your yard, make sure he has access to a water bowl, check it often and break ice that forms on top.
Groom your dog..
Your dog needs a clean, well-groomed coat to keep him properly insulated. This is especially important if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors. After bathing, always dry your dog thoroughly, especially before allowing them to go outside.
Paw care, a must..
Just as we tend to develop foot cracks in winter, dogs can also suffer from cracked pads. If your dog has furry paws, trim the hair that grows between his pads to prevent ice buildup between the pads. Winter salt on city sidewalks can also burn your dog’s pads and is toxic, so after walks, rinse or wipe their paws to remove any salt as you don’t want them licking it off. If your dog shows signs of discomfort when walking outside on frozen or salted surfaces, consider using dog booties to protect their paws.
Snow can be a lot of fun but also dangerous for your dog. Snow piled near fences offers your dog escape routes that even well trained dogs often cannot resist. When you clear snow in your backyard, pile it away from fences to prevent your dog from climbing over.
Watch while your dog plays..
Although your dog is likely to be having a great time outdoors, take frequent indoor breaks for water and warming and don’t ever stay out too long. If you’re walking or playing in unfamiliar areas, keep your dog close. It’s easy for him/her to venture into unsafe surfaces such as frozen ponds or lakes that may be covered with snow but not easily visible.
Avoid exposure to toxins..
With winter comes antifreeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet and dogs will readily lick or drink it. Antifreeze is highly toxic and just a small amount can be fatal to your pet. Keep your dog out of the garage and off the driveway where they may encounter antifreeze or other harmful chemicals.
Never leave your dog unattended in the car..
Just as vehicles can get dangerously hot in summer, freezing cold temperatures are equally dangerous for your dog in winter. Leaving the vehicle running involves additional risks, including carbon monoxide poisoning if the vehicle is parked in a garage. Leave your dog at home when you go out to run errands.
Special care for older dogs..
Cold weather will often aggravate existing medical conditions in dogs, particularly arthritis. It is important to maintain an exercise regimen with your arthritic dog, but be mindful of slippery surfaces and make sure your dog has a warm soft rest area. If you don’t already give your older dog a natural joint supplement to lubricate the joints and ease the discomfort of arthritis, you may want to consider adding one in winter.
Harsh winter weather brings a wide variety of concerns to responsible dog owners. Bitter cold, numbing wetness or biting winds can cause discomfort for your dog. Paying special attention to your loyal friend’s well-being during the winter season will insure that you both enjoy the season to the fullest. And don’t forget that winter cuddles with your canine buddy are a great way for everybody to keep warm!
Safety Tips for Dog Walker & Watchers:
- Be alert of your surroundings while walking with your dog
- Carry a cell phone to report any concerns
- Carry a note pad and pen to record information
- Carry a flashlight for your night walks
- Consider a reflective collar for your dog
When Calling 911:
- Stay calm and speak clearly
- State where you are.. street, address and landmarks
- State what is happening..
- What do you see..
- Description of individual(s) and/or vehicle(s)..
- Answer the dispatcher’s questions based upon your observations
- Give dispatcher your name and phone number
- Be prepared to speak with an APD Officer about what you observed
Observe • Report • Do Not Confront